2CFP’s: IU Superfoods Workshop & AAA Fixing Territory Session

Workshop: “Critical Approaches to Superfoods” 


Emma McDonell, PhD Candidate, Indiana University

Sarah Osterhoudt, Assistant Professor, Indiana University

Richard Wilk, Professor, Indiana University

Call for papers

 Recognizing the immediate broad significance of this trend, we are convening scholars with diverse disciplinary backgrounds and analytical approaches to discuss, debate, and define the emerging phenomena of “superfoods,” and develop an edited volume on the topic. The workshop endeavors to bring together cutting edge works in progress that explore superfoods’ connections to and departures from other curative comestibles across history and cultures, and that take a critical approach the social and political work superfoods do. We encourage papers that attempt to examine how the superfoods phenomena articulates with issues of scientific authority and nutritional expertise, shifting consumer understandings of health and the body, and issues of ownership and bioprospecting. We welcome unpublished work from scholars based in a wide variety of disciplines including and not limited to anthropology, history, geography, gender studies, literature, sociology. and hope for works. In particular we seek case-study-based papers as well as analyses of the trend writ-large that answer one or more of the following questions:In the past decade, “superfoods” have taken US and European consumer markets by storm. Novel commodities like quinoa and acai, along with familiar products such as cranberries and raw milk, are increasing framed as superfoods, a classification that seeks to draw attention to their exceptional nutritional prowess and curative properties, but that has not been defined in any standardized way. The increasing visibility of superfoods brings to the fore pressing questions about scientific authority and nutritional expertise, shifting consumer understandings of health and the body, and issues of ownership and bioprospecting. Despite this conspicuity of this trend and the rich analytical terrain it opens up, academic scholarship has been slow to catch on, and only a handful of disparate publications touch on the subject.

  • How does the superfoods discourse align with and depart from “hegemonic nutrition” or “nutritionism”?
  • In what ways does the superfoods discourse intervene in and challenge accepted ideas about bodily health and wellbeing more generally?
  • How is the superfoods discourse taking hold outside the US?
  • How does the superfoods discourse articulate with situated ideas about race and difference? How does a superfood come to be seen as such and what forms of negotiation and contestation characterize this process of definition?
  • Should we understand superfoods as “fashion foods” and how do they relate to boom-bust cycles?
  • What happens to farmers when a little-known local food suddenly acquires superfood status?

We are particularly interested in papers that:

  • engage theories relevant to critical nutrition studies and food studies;
  • examine the flow of ideas, knowledge, capital, people, materials, etc. in relation to superfoods;
  • are based on empirical work drawing upon historical/archival sources, ethnography,  analysis of text, or innovative cross-disciplinary approaches; and
  • are in the stage of development where a full paper will be ready by 1 February 2019.

The main goal of the three-day event is to present and workshop papers, while developing a research agenda for future superfood studies by identifying key patterns, developing a working definition of superfoods, and shaping a holistic interdisciplinary set of inquiries that integrates existing insights with emerging inquiries. The end product will be an edited volume or special issue that seeks to define an emerging conversation on superfoods, and all participants must submit their unpublished work for consideration in this publication. We have a limited number of spots available and the selection process will be highly competitive.

The workshop will be held at the Indiana Memorial Union (IMU) and the Indiana University Food Institute (IUFI). The first day will involve public presentations of each of the participants’ chapters to the IU community. This symposia-style day will be followed by two closed-door intensive workshopping days, which will include only workshop participants. Each participant will have read each chapter draft and will we will discuss each chapter for approximately one hour. Finally, we will have a concluding session that will seek to outline a research agenda, pointing to emerging questions and dynamics the workshop has shed light on. This discussion will inform the introduction to the book.

The workshop is hosted and organized by Indiana University. It is a 3-day event scheduled from March 21-23, 2019. The workshop is organized and facilitated by Emma McDonell (Ph.D. Candidate), Prof. Sarah Osterhoudt, and Prof. Richard Wilk. Accommodations and modest support for travel costs will be provided.

Applicants should take note of the following dates:

  • 30 May 2018 – Deadline of submission of paper proposal (500 word abstract containing theoretical approach, methods, and findings)
  • 30 June 2018 – Announcement of successful proposals
  • 1 February 2019 – Submission of full papers
  • 21-23 March 2019 – Workshop in Bloomington, IN

Paper proposals (500 word abstract containing theoretical approach, methods, and findings plus a 2-3 sentence bio) should be emailed to Emma McDonell (ekmcdone@indiana.edu) by 30 May 2018 with the subject heading, “Superfood workshop submission (‘first and last name’)”

Panel title: Fixing territory: bodies and socionatures in flux 

AAA Annual Meeting 2018

Co-organizers: Amanda Hilton (University of Arizona); Emma McDonell (Indiana University)

Discussant:  Sarah Besky (Brown University)

In the context of increased economic, ecological, and social precarity (Tsing 2015), efforts to fix meaning and value abound. Territorialization represents one such effort to fix—in the sense of locate, link to, arrest, but perhaps also in the sense of to make right—dynamic processes of movement. Existing research suggests that that places and cultures should not essentialized, but instead understood as open entities that are constituted through dynamic networks of social relations and ideas (Gibson-Graham 2006; Wolf 1982). Entire socio-natural systems are moving in space or changing beyond recognition at the hands of climate change, human and non-human migratory flows are shifting course and speed, and global connections of various kinds are intensifying or disintegrating. Yet territorial projects that seek to limit, contain, and manage this fluidity and complexity with the end goals of control and legibility abound. How, we ask, does territory and territoriality work amidst movement and change–and how can thinking about diverse projects through a lens of territoriality help us see otherwise obscured dynamics?

 This panel asks how territory and territory-making work is characterized by relations of collaboration and conflict, and how the various actors involved both imagine and materialize resistance, resilience, and adaptation. What are anthropologists to make of the seemingly contradictory but potentially dialectical dynamic of increased rates of environmental (and otherwise) change and intensifying efforts to fix territory?

Territory has often been understood in terms of the state’s attempt at exerting its power over space (Lefebvre 1991, Scott 1998), exercising its claims to sovereignty. Yet we can understand diverse sorts of projects as territorial. Anthropological work on geographic indications for place-based products, wildlife or natural conservation areas, ethno-states, migration, and ecological nationalism all deal with issues of territoriality and overlapping territorial projects, and the entailed dynamics of legibility, surveillance, classification, border-making, and boundary work. However, these literatures have mostly been treated as separate objects of inquiry and the concept of territory itself remains undertheorized (Besky and Padwe 2016). In this panel we will think about these and other related projects together through the rubric of territoriality, asking whether and how territory brings together diverse kinds of phenomena in a productive way.

We are interested in papers dealing with territoriality in its diverse manifestations, including, but certainly not limited to, work on conservation areas, mapping, geographic indications, and migrations of various kinds. Possible questions or topics to address include:

  • What work does “territory” do that theories of place, place-making, and space do not do?
  • In what ways is territory invoked – and what sorts of symbolic and material work does it do in the world?
  • How do overlapping territorial projects interact, and what sorts of relations characterize their interactions?
  • Who do efforts to “fix” territory include, and who do they exclude, with what resistance and repercussions?
  • What forms does resistance to territorial projects take, and what can this reveal about how territory works and the limits of territorial power?
  • Does the “multi-species turn” push us to see territory differently, and what does thinking through multi-species relations through the lens of territory and territorialization reveal that’s otherwise obscured? In what ways do the territorial projects of humans and non-humans overlap – and what are the results?

Besky, Sarah, and Jonathan Padwe. 2016. “Placing Plants in Territory.” Environment and Society 7 (1): 9–28.

Gibson-Graham, Julie Katherine. 2006. A Postcapitalist Politics. University of Minnesota Press.

Lefebvre, Henri. 1991. The production of space. Cambridge, Mass., USA; Oxford, OX, UK: Blackwell.

Scott, James C. 1998. Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Yale University Press.

Tsing, Anna Lowenhaupt. 2015. The Mushroom at the End of the World: On the Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins. Princeton University Press.

Wolf, Eric R. 2010 [1982]. Europe and the People without History. University of California Press.

Please send abstracts (250 words max) with paper title and presenter information to Amanda Hilton (ajhilton@email.arizona.edu) and Emma McDonell (ekmcdone@indiana.edu) by the end of the day on Friday, April 6. We will notify selected participants by Monday, April 9. Session participants must be registered AAA members and registered for the meeting by April 16.

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